It was a bad year for the Canadian military with 19 soldiers committing suicide in 2014, a report released by the military reveals.
This is one of the highest levels in the past decade with only two other years reporting higher figures. There were 22 suicides in 2009 and 25 in 2011.
It is also an increase from the previous year in which 13 soldiers killed themselves.
All of the 19 people who committed suicide were male. Sixteen were regular forces members and three were reservists.
However, Brig.-Gen. Jean-Robert Bernier urges a cautious interpretation of the numbers. Overall suicide rates in the military are, according to Bernier, lower than the overall civilian population even though some branches, such as the army, do have higher rates.
20-year wait for PTSD help
The Toronto Star reports several soldiers spoke out after the release of the report about their personal struggles with mental illness and at least one veteran said that he had waited over 20 years to seek help for post-traumatic stress disorder because of the stigma associated with it.
He also said that seeking help was the “most courageous” thing he had ever done, this despite having fought in three different conflicts throughout his career.
Master Warrant Officer Jason Pickard urged others in the military to speak out and seek assistance if they are suffering mental health problems.
He told the Star mental health is an invisible wound and soldiers should not succumb to the self imposed stigma that prevents them from getting help.
The issue became political when NDP leader Thomas Mulcair questioned whether one of the suicide victims was turned away when he sought help for depression, framing his statements in the larger context of veteran cutbacks under the Harper government.
Harper responded by offering his condolences to the soldier’s family and citing measures taken by the military, such as opening new operational stress injury clinics, to deal with this issue.
There was no word on how recent cutbacks to veteran’s services will impact the veterans seeking access to help.